I missed The 7.30 Report last night and was all excited to later learn that there had been some sort of prime ministerial meltdown, a Ruddquake of anger at Kerry O’Brien, so I eagerly clicked over to the ABC website to watch. And watch, and watch, and watch, and apart from the crack about “7.30 Report land” from an obviously annoyed Rudd, I didn’t see anything. As late as this morning the ABC was insisting it was a “fiery exchange”.

Meltdown?  Fiery exchange? What, have you lot gone soft or something?  If you want meltdowns, go watch a few old Richard Carleton interviews — back before he had his credibility removed tick by tick at 60 Minutes. Watch his “blood on your hands” interview with Bob Hawke, which kicked off the 1983 election campaign, where it’s impossible to know what’s more bizarre, Hawke’s yellow jacket or his visceral reaction to Carleton.

In fact, it was reassuring to see the normally bloodless Rudd, who treats interviews as opportunities to recite his talking points regardless of any actual question he is asked, getting animated about something, suggesting some faint trace of his humanity remains beneath that cold cyborg shell.  He needs some sort of circuit breaker given his performance in recent weeks. His exasperation might have been in part prompted by the fact that, having gone on The 7.30 Report the day after the Budget, he wasn’t asked a single question about it. “I’ll get to the Budget shortly,” O’Brien assured him halfway through, but we never quite got there, because O’Brien was more interested in revisiting the CPRS and spruiking Rio Tinto’s hysterical campaign against the RSPT, something the ABC seems to have been quite keen to do.

Incidentally, despite the ABC’s claim that an “axe hangs over Rio projects”, you’ll still look in vain for any such advice from Rio to its investors.  The most recent ASX announcement from Rio is a week old.  The big mining companies might continue to be guilty of lying about the impact of the RSPT and telling the media one thing and investors another, but the media is culpable here as well, failing to undertake the most basic reality check on any claims advanced by patently self-interested parties.

The ABC also did some nice work on The 7.30 Report transcript of the Rudd interview.  It left in every single “um” and “ah” from the Prime Minister.  It renders even a bloke who talks not merely in paragraphs but in pages or Proustian density hopelessly inarticulate.  “Well, um, as I said before, Kerry, um, some of the large mining companies and some other companies are going to say all sorts of things as we sort out, um, the detail of this. But, um, again… Ah, Kerry, ah if, um, you’d come down the Queensland coast with me and the New South Wales coast to practically all the major centres, um, in those, ah, regions …”

O’Brien’s questions remain blissfully free of any verbal hiccups.

Funny that because they’re all normally omitted from the ABC transcript.  When Rudd spoke to O’Brien after the COAG health summit, there was nary an “um” or “ah” in sight.  When O’Brien interviewed Tony Abbott in April, they were all left out.  Abbott’s a very good, authentic-sounding public speaker but terribly prone to half-stutters and ums and ahhs, and if you left all of those in a transcript it’d go for dozens of pages.

The ABC wouldn’t have decided to leave them in just to fit the “Rudd meltdown” theme would they?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey